Building a Tutorial for Spellborn
The folks at The Chronicles of Spellborn recently put together a Developer Blog which takes a look at the efforts and philosophy behind the game's new tutorial.
In the last post (Easy to learn…hard to master) we explained how assumptions have caused problems in experiencing Spellborn. We assumed that controls (2 hands simultaneously) and game play (dodging, agile movement) would come naturally to people.
When designing the tutorial, our first focus was that “the enjoyment of Spellborn stands or falls with the players understanding of the combat system.”
With that in mind, the tutorial had to be quick for people who already know the basics, without sacrificing these basics. And that’s why we start at the beginning: WASD for movement, and simultaneously using the mouse to look around and aim. This is logical for anyone who has ever played a first person game. But for those that have not and even though it is just a minor adjustment, we still need to explain it.
So Spellborn’s tutorial slowly lets people use what they learn to advance. First we tell them to use a key to move, then we show them a target and ask them to move into it.
In following that route we ran into something else. Explaining “everything” would keep people locked in a tutorial for hours and we don’t want that for the players. After all, you bought a game, not a schoolbook.
So how do we get essential information across, yet at the same time, don’t hold advancement for those people that simply already know everything?
That is why the tutorial works on three separate layers.
The most direct layer is the white glowing targets that appear. Especially during the first part, all that players have to do is move from one target to the next, in their own pace. If a player has already done the tutorial, they can quickly go through it, skipping all the text, as reaching a target is enough to go on.
The second layer of information is the white text above a players head, it will give them the controls they need to use to reach the next target.
And the third layer is tutorial windows. They contain more detailed explanation and the keys that correspond to what is going on. If players take it slowly, that is where the meaty part of the information is. We thus still leave it up to the player to learn, or rush if they want to.
The tutorial thus covers the basics needed for playing through Spellborn’s first few levels of advancement:
- Looking / Aiming
This will occupy new players for a good 15 to 30 minutes already. But speed rushing it, it can be done in less than five.
Every thing learned is then immediately tested in a playful manner. When you have learned how to aim, we ask you to destroy crates, one of which hangs from a rope above the players head. The tutorial is of course setup in a way that even if people have difficulty understanding everything they can still advance. If people forget to use the bow, they can still jump on top of several crates and hit the hanging crate with a sword.
When you have progressed through the basics, we reward players with a level-up and they progress onto the main deck of the shardship. There the basics are known, and we give people the kind of quests they can expect on Hawksmouth where they will eventually go. Of course, things get a bit more “interesting” than the so-called killing ten crates. However we used crates (as opposed to rats) because we figured that having to learn how to aim and move, these biting targets was just a little too much extra stress to deal with. But there will be rats soon enough.
The tutorial is just a first step in helping players understand what the game has to offer, which is quite a lot more than it seems to have at first glance. The tutorial doesn’t even cover all the advanced concepts. Such as fighting a group of enemy humanoids, where the mages will run away and communicating with their buddies, thus their buddies moving between you and their support mages. That sort of group behavior is quite unique in MMORPG and makes our enemies more unpredictable. But in a tutorial it would be too much information already, plus, you can deal with them if you know the basics.
We also don’t explain more advanced concepts, like all the enemies having a skill deck, with cooldowns and ranges. We also don’t explain how to dodge in real time the attacks of the enemy. Why? Because if you cannot get past the first hurdle there’s no point in adding even more confusion with additional complex information. This would only make it more tedious.
We hope this new Tutorial will help overcoming that first hurdle more easily for all newcomers! Rest assured we will continue to add more tools for you players to have an even better experience of The Chronicles of Spellborn.
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